JOINING the global tourism campaign on “domestic first, long-haul later,” the Department of Tourism (DOT) will roll out re-imaging of domestic tourism by offering tours and programs on niche markets.
Specifically, the DOT will initially promote health and wellness, farm, dive and community-based tourism with authentic experiential activities, said DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. in a recent webinar.
“We shall focus on domestic travel to jumpstart tourism in the country and to bring livelihood in tourism back,” sad Bengzon. “We will particularly pay attention to product development as we expect changes in consumer behavior and expectations.”
Tourism is one of the sectors badly hurt by the Covid-19 pandemic as nation’s around the globe shut their borders to prevent further spread.
The Philippines being one of those tourism-dependent countries wasn’t spared. The DOT said tourism revenues were slashed by 55 percent from January to April 2020. The country only earned P79.8 billion for this period, against 2019’s P180.52 billion.
Foreigners who arrived in the country from January to April reached 1.3 million, down 54 percent from the 2019 figure of 2.8 million tourist arrivals.
Bengzon said under the new tourism landscape, tourism recovery will be moderate but steady, and it will require a higher level of cooperation. This means local government unit policies will be crucial in the recovery of tourism, aside from the support from the stakeholders.
Moreover, Bengzon noted that under the new normal, safety and hygiene will become new amenities that all tourism establishments and products must meet to regain the confidence of the market.
This was reinforced by Alice Queblatin, president of Cebu Alliance of Tour Operations Specialists (Catos), in a separate webinar, that safety and hygiene will be the scorecards on how quick the destinations will rebound from the crisis.
“We would like the DOT to drum up the concept of a cleaner and safer Cebu,” said Queblatin, adding that hotels in Cebu have beefed up their safety and hygiene protocol.
The Catos official added that between now and until the tourism sector is allowed to fully operate, stakeholders must use this time to carefully plan the products and activities they will offer to the returning tourists, bearing in mind their new preferences.
Queblatin cited for instance that Koreans are now more into outdoor activities, thus, tour packages should be more on farm, countryside, adventure and retreat activities.
She also expected that solo travelers or fully independent travelers (FITs) will be on the rise during the pandemic while large group bookings will be temporarily suspended.
“FITs are in; large groups are out. Or people will now opt to travel with small groups, people that they really know, like families,” she said.
Queblatin said preferences on less crowded destinations will also gain high interest amid this pandemic.
In May, the DOT unveiled the Tourism Response and Recovery Plan (TRRP), a set of protocols, programs and activities that will aid the revival of the tourism industry.
The plan was crafted with the help of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, local government units, national agencies and the Tourism Congress of the Philippines.
According to Bengzon, the programs and activities covered in the TRRP will help address the immediate and prolonged impact of the coronavirus pandemic in tourism in the next three years.